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Advice on interviewing candidates for psychology roles

Published on: 13 Nov 2023

You’ve written the job description, put out the advert, and now you’ve whittled the stack of applications down to just a few. Next stop – interviews.

Realistically you have no more than an hour with each candidate the pick the best fit. 

Read our top tips to find out how to get the most out of interviews for jobs in psychology.

Prepare well

Before an interview, reviewing the job description and familiarising yourself with the candidates’ CVs are an absolute must.

As well as making a good impression on the candidates, those documents are essential for preparing the right questions.

Next, ask yourself whether you really know what strengths and skills you’re looking for. Harvard Business School recommends looking at your existing top performers for inspiration and consider what they have in common with the candidates you’re hiring. Do they all have a similar background in a particular psychology field, or have they all completed a range of CPD courses?

Also make some notes on each candidate’s CV. What questions are going to help them demonstrate those skills they’ve listed? And are there any employment or education gaps they might need to explain?

Provide structure to the interview

It’s up to you whether the interview for the psychology role is face to face or via video call, a one-off or with more than one stage, and whether there are practical tasks or creative elements involved.

If there are multiple parts, make sure you know what you’re hoping to achieve from each.

At the start, lay out the structure of the interview the candidate, and make sure you keep to it. Let them know the types of questions you’ll be asking, and make sure they know they can ask questions too, and when.

While you may well prefer more of a free-flowing conversation, this is rarely as effective in an interview setting.
Keeping to a format will help candidates to feel more secure, ensure you have asked everything you wanted to and keep everyone focused.

Ask different types of questions

Most interviews will contain some common questions. What most interests you about this role? Why are you leaving your current job?

There are no prizes for uniqueness and being too ‘off the wall’ may wrong foot your candidates.

But there’s plenty of room for variety and creativity too. Prepare behavioural questions (‘tell me a time when…’), situational questions and emotional intelligence questions.

This will give you the best chance to hear about the skills, experience, character attributes and values for the psychology role that you’re looking for.

Keep all questions related to the role. Remember you’re looking for the most qualified person for the job, not just someone you like.

Make questions open-ended – give candidates a chance to shine. And ask the same questions to everyone. This will make it easier to compare candidates later and make an informed decision on who to hire.

Be kind and professional

Job interviews are stressful. And while it’s important for people in the psychology field to be able to work well under pressure, when people are stressed, they don’t perform at their best.

Showing kindness and professional courtesy can help a candidate relax and give them the best chance to succeed.

If interviews are face to face, make sure candidates feel welcome and offer them a drink of water.

A little small talk at the start of the interview, about the journey to the office, or in a ‘virtual’ interview about the video platform, can also break the ice. 

Listening is also very important. Be attentive – if you’re concentrating on what you’re going to say next you’ll miss what the candidate is saying.

According to Monster Recruitment, recruiters should speak for a maximum 30 per cent of the time during interviews.

And, finally, follow up. Be clear with candidates what the next steps are and let them know when they can expect a response from you.

Find the perfect candidate for your job in psychology

By following these steps, you should be well on your way to finding a candidate that’s a great fit.

You can also read our tips on how to write the perfect job description for your job in psychology and advice on how to hire the candidate that’s right for you.

Find out how you can attract the best talent or email to speak to the Jobs in Psychology advertising team.